Ruling party in shambles over wheat scam as PM reluctant to take action against caretakers

Mian Nawaz reportedly wants to initiate action to deflect blame away from his daughter Maryam’s government in the Punjab.

ISLAMABAD/LAHORE: There is tension within the ruling Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) on how to handle the billion dollar wheat import scam. Over the past two days the party’s senior leadership has made decisions, taken them back, and painted a picture of complete disarray.

In private, the situation is even bleaker. Mian Nawaz Sharif has publicly stated that he supports strict action against the preceding caretaker government, which is a key suspect in the wheat import scandal that has taken hold of the country’s news cycle. But it seems his younger brother the prime minister is more reluctant to involve Anwar ul Haq Kakar’s caretaker setup in any sort of federal criminal investigation, especially since the Punjab CM from the caretaker era, Mohsin Naqvi, serves as interior minister in his cabinet.

The difference in approach is causing tensions within the party. Mian Nawaz is keen to hold the previous government accountable because the wheat scam is proving to be the first major challenge for his daughter Maryam’s government in Punjab. The ire of farmers over the scandal has been directed largely towards the Punjab government because of its failure to purchase the wheat from the farmers. The initial response has been heavy handed and could cause future political damage. The prime minister, the head of a weak coalition in Islamabad, is afraid of the consequences of taking on the caretakers who are thought to have been very close with the country’s establishment, according to one high ranking source within the PML-N.

What does the caretaker government’s mess up have to do with the Punjab government?

The origins of the wheat scam go back to an amount of 1.2 million tonnes of wheat more than what was necessary to import. Back in 2022, devastating floods ruined Pakistan’s domestic wheat production. As a result, in 2023, the government decided to import more wheat to make up for the shortfall. The shortfall was around 2.4 million tons, but the government instead allowed the private sector to import 3.6 million tonnes.

The accusation is that the caretaker government took kickbacks to allow this. As a result, there was an extra billion dollars tagged onto the import bill at a time when the economy was facing a dire shortage of foreign reserves. The problem was that earlier this year the chickens came home to roost, but the owner of the barn was different.


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Abdullah Niazi
Abdullah Niazi
Abdullah Niazi is senior editor at Profit. He can be reached at [email protected]


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